Illinois Law Allows Graduation For Special Education
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 9, 2005
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS--For decades, many high school seniors with disabilities have not been allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies and receive their diplomas alongside other students their own age.
In Illinois, that changed this year with the passage of "Brittany's Law", which was signed in January by Governor Rod Blagojevich. The law requires all districts with high schools to allow such students to go through the graduation ceremony, and still continue to receive school services until age 21.
Before the law was passed, the decision to grant permission for special education students to graduate was left up to each district.
The law was named for Brittany Brown, a Lyons Township High School student with Down syndrome who wanted to graduate with her same-age peers last year. School administrators denied her requests, saying that giving her a diploma would mean the end of her schooling, including school-to-work transitional services.
Brown crossed the stage this year to receive her diploma, along with a half dozen other students with disabilities in her school.
The change affects thousands of Illinois students, who in the past were excluded from this important rite of passage.
"I feel like I'm part of the class," Elizabeth Alice Terrill, who received her diploma Sunday at York Community High School's graduation program, told the Chicago Tribune.
"Graduation hopes realized"(Chicago Tribune)